2:00PM Water Cooler 5/13/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 5/13/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

This is Hermit Thrush Week at Naked Capitalism. Acadia National Park, Maine, US.

Hat tip Noone from Nowheresville. Readers, do you have another bird to propose?

Or perhaps I can simply use this keen migration dashboard from BirdCast (hat tip, alert reader Ignacio).

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Capitol Seizure

“Jan. 6 committee opens a Pandora’s box of retaliation” [Axios]. “The Jan. 6 committee’s decision to issue five major subpoenas Thursday — two targeting potential House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan — is likely to open a Pandora’s box of retaliation. The GOP was already plotting revenge, and now the minority feels more emboldened than ever, Republican lawmakers tell Axios. Prepare for committee removals, retaliatory subpoenas and even impeachments should the midterms go as polls — and history — predict…. There’s no clear path to ensuring the subpoenaed lawmakers comply.”

Biden Adminstration

Lying? Or brain fog?

Obviously there was vaccine available when Biden took office; they had been developed by the former guy under Operation Warp Speed (the extraordinary gift handed to Democrats and then squandered with Biden’s Vax-only “Let ‘er rip” policy). And the White House press office, for some reason, seems forgetful:

I’m not unserious about the brain fog thing. Multiple infections among Beltway PMC are increasingly likely, because they keep holding superspreading events. And we know that “even mild Covid is linked to brain damage.” But how are we going to distinguish untruths and lapses due to brain damage from the normal machinations of the political class? What happens when the entire West Wing turns into Diane Feinstein?

“White House prepares to ration vaccines as Covid funding impasse looms” [Politico]. “A painful and foreboding reality is setting in for the White House as it enters a potentially dangerous stretch of the Covid fight: It may soon need to run its sprawling pandemic response on a shoestring budget. Just two months after the administration unveiled a nearly 100-page roadmap out of the crisis, doubts are growing about Congress’ willingness to fund the nation’s fight. It has forced Biden officials to debate deep cuts to their Covid operation and game out ways to keep the federal effort afloat on a month-by-month basis. Among the sacrifices being weighed are limiting access to its next generation of vaccines to only the highest-risk Americans — a rationing that would have been unthinkable just a year ago, when the White House touted the development and widespread availability of vaccines as the clearest way out of the pandemic. But as the government’s cash reserves dwindle, officials are increasingly concluding that these types of difficult choices will soon have to be made. And they are quietly preparing to shift responsibility for other key parts of the pandemic response to the private sector as early as 2023. ‘There’s a great deal of concern that we’re going to be caught shorthanded,’ said one person familiar with the discussions. ‘On the face of it, it’s absurd.’” • Oh, privatization, what a shame. Who could want that?


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OR: “The Esoteric Social Movement Behind This Cycle’s Most Expensive House Race” [Politico]. “But this focus on [major donor] Bankman-Fried’s background in crypto has obscured another — and even stranger — element of the billionaire’s support. Both [candidate Carrick Flynn] and Bankman-Fried are adherents of a niche philosophy known as ‘effective altruism,’ which advocates using quantitative analyses and evidence-based reasoning to maximize social good and mitigate long-term threats to humanity. According to members of the effective altruism community, Flynn’s campaign is only the most visible part of a broader effort to grow effective altruism’s political footprint in Washington. In recent years, a collection of individual effective altruist and effective-altruism-aligned organizations have been spending big to build out a network of advocacy groups and think tanks focused on translating effective altruism’s philosophical principles into policy — principally in the areas of biosecurity, pandemic prevention and emerging technology policy. This effort marks the movement’s first major effort to expand effective altruism’s reach beyond philanthropy — where it has championed some counterintuitive ideas about charitable giving — into the messy and pragmatic arena of politics. For some effective altruists like Flynn and Bankman-Fried, the next step in this push is to put an effective altruist into Congress. But what happens when their hyper-rational and efficiency-obsessed approach to doing good collides with America’s most irrational and inefficient governing institution? And if Flynn succeeds in becoming the first effective altruist in Congress, can he actually make it any more effective?” • “Effective Altruism” has funders and networks, so……

PA: “John Fetterman is redefining how swing-state Democrats campaign” [Vox]. “[Fetterman’s] dominance may seem surprising. But behind it is his success in addressing two pressing problems Democrats have struggled with nationally. That their primary voters tend to favor progressive policies more than general election voters, and their party seems unable to clearly define what it believes and who it’s for: It wants to advance progressive ideas without being branded as leftist, and to strike a balance between elite priorities and blue-collar concerns. The quirks of his candidacy mean that Fetterman is able to find a balance between extremes. A longtime politician, he’s promoted progressive causes in the state while also bending to practical, populist concerns. And he’s done much of that while wearing Carhartt hoodies and basketball shorts. That’s not to say Fetterman has a lock on the general election. But if Fetterman wins, he and Democratic voters will be making a bet: An unconventional, but authentic candidate who is progressive enough to win a Democratic primary won’t doom the party in a general election…. But he has shown a messaging discipline that suggests to voters that he hears their concerns and has a plan to follow in Congress if Democrats hold their majority. He’s talked often about creating more jobs, raising the minimum wage, and abolishing the filibuster to do that if needed. Voters also seem to trust Fetterman on other issues that polling suggests are of interest to Democrats, like the Russia-Ukraine war, health care costs, and voting rights.” • Messaging discipline. It’s not all the basketball shorts (in the winter, which I concede is legendary image-making).


“The Memo: Trump, Biden allies crave 2024 rematch” [The Hill]. “The prospect of a White House rematch between President Biden and former President Trump is coming into focus. And there’s nothing that backers of either man would like more. ‘If the election were held today, Trump would win by 6 points,’ enthused Corey Lewandowski, the Trump ally who served as the former president’s campaign manager in the early stages of the 2016 election cycle. Asked about other plausible Democratic nominees should Biden decide not to seek a second term, Lewandowski insisted ‘Joe Biden would be my first choice’ as an opponent. On the other side of the equation, Democrat Dick Harpootlian, who served on Biden’s 2020 campaign finance committee, said, ‘I am praying for Donald Trump to be the nominee … Trump represents the worst aspects of the Republican Party and I am convinced that absence will not make the heart grow fonder.’ Harpootlian, a longtime fixture of South Carolina politics known for his colorful turns of phrase, gleefully branded the former president ‘crazy as a shithouse rat.’ Biden and Trump journeyed to key states Friday, giving a split-screen preview of what a 2024 campaign would look like.” • The liberal Democrats have two big projects going (Covid having been abandoned to “personal risk assessment”): Ukraine, and 1/6. What’s remarkable is that neither are on the radar as political issues. Now, if Biden somehow manages to appear to have “beaten” Putin, there will be an absolutely ginormous liberalgasm, and the afterglow should help with turnout (and of course anti-war Republicans — holy Lord, what a concept — can be branded as traitors). Similarly, if the 1/6 Committee somehow manages to appear to have “nailed” Trump, there will be another ginormous liberalgasm, and the afterglow should again help with turnout (and the Constitution is a sacred text in America, so there’s leverage in that somewhere). Now, both outcomes seem unlikely, odd given the enormous resources, military and political, being poured into each. Putin seems likely to delay any, er, resolution of Ukraine until after the point where it would make a difference to Biden. And, to my mind, the 1/6 Committee deliverable needs to be strongly evidenced, have a timeline, and appear to be “above politics,” if it is appeal to anybody beyond themselves. Sadly, the Democrats have form, and any 1/6 deliverable seems more than likely to be, er, spoiled.

Democrats en Déshabillé

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

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Owned by MTG, JFC:

And rightly. AOC earned every bit of this.

“The Bankruptcy of the Democratic Party Left” [Ruy Teixeira, The Liberal Patriot]. “The thread that runs through all these failures is the Democratic Left’s adamant refusal to base its political approach on the actually-existing opinions and values of actually-existing American voters. Instead they entertain fantasies about kindling a prairie fire of progressive turnout with their approach, despite falling short again and again in the real world. It hasn’t worked and it won’t work. Instead, what they need is a plan on how to win outside of deep blue areas and states (the average Congressional Progressive Caucus leader is from a Democratic +19 district). That entails compromises that, so far, the Democratic Left has not been willing to make. Cultural moderation, effective governance and smart campaigning are what is needed to win in competitive areas of the country. If democracy is in as much danger as the Democratic Left appears to believe, would not such compromises be worth making? And wouldn’t winning make a nice change of pace at this point?” • This is rich coming from Teixeira, whose identity politics-based “coalition of the ascendant” collapsed into rubble when Trump began winning over Hispanic and Black voters. “Actually-existing opinions and values” my Sweet Aunt Fanny.

Forty years of “pro-choice,” and now the liberal Democrats change the messaging:

Personally, I never liked “pro-choice,” because that sounded like a consumer good (“This is why the market is great. So many choices!”). But what were the pro-abotion forces thinking, all those years?

Republican Funhouse

“Pence to headline Georgia rally for Kemp, furthering former VP’s break with Trump” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “Former Vice President Mike Pence will headline a get-out-the-vote rally with Gov. Brian Kemp on the eve of Georgia’s May 24 primary, deepening a split with Donald Trump as each maneuvers for a possible 2024 White House run. Pence called Kemp ‘one of the most successful conservative governors in America’ in a statement announcing the rally to help the incumbent stave off a Trump-backed challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue. The event announced Friday illustrates a growing proxy fight in Georgia between establishment forces backing Kemp and the Trump loyalists who want to remake the state Republican Party in the former president’s mold. Trump has put Kemp at the top of his revenge list, falsely blaming him for his 2020 election defeat in Georgia. His vendetta has spread beyond the governor, too, as he’s built a slate of candidates who are challenging Kemp allies down the ballot. But many of Trump’s fiercest Republican critics have rallied to Kemp’s side. That includes former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who plans to soon stump for Kemp in Georgia, and former President George W. Bush, who recently donated to his campaign. It’s also a fresh example of Pence’s attempt to distance himself from Trump after four years as his political sidekick. Pence called his former boss ‘wrong’ for falsely claiming he could overturn the results of the 2020 election and urged Republicans to focus on 2022 rather than fixate on the past. • I can take Bush and Christie or leave them alone, but I have to give credit to Pence for courage, both on 1/6 itself (“I’m not getting in the car“) and in the aftermath.

Trump Legacy

“Trump Organization closes sale of Washington hotel” [Reuters]. “The Trump Organization said on Wednesday that it completed the $375 million sale of the lease on the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. to an investment firm that plans to rebrand the property as the Waldorf Astoria. The business owned by the family of former President Donald Trump bought the rights in 2013 to the hotel, housed inside in the historic Old Post Office Building blocks away from the White House, and renovated it. The building itself is still owned by the federal government. In March, the U.S. General Services Administration, which acts as the federal government’s landlord, approved the sale of the rights by the Trump Organization to Miami-based CGI Merchant Group. Trump is projected to gain $100 million from the transaction.”

“Scoop: New Trump venture” [Axios]. “Donald Trump has found a new way to milk his ex-presidency — and test another — hitting the lucrative motivational speaking circuit with more fervor than any other active U.S. politician in history. It’s a way to build support for a possible 2024 presidential bid while potentially pocketing large speaking fees as many of his iconic properties are struggling. At events hosted by an outfit called the American Freedom Tour, Trump is whipping up arena-sized crowds resembling his campaign rallies.” • Now Trump can get back to his A/B testing. Look out!

Our Famously Free Press

“Carol Burris: What Jonathan Chait Forgot to Mention in His Latest Defense of the Charter Industry” [Diane Ravitch]. “Jonathan Chait writes for New York magazine, where his latest article appeared, opposing the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). CSP currently spends $440 million annually to underwrite new charter schools. Chait titled his article ‘Biden Abandons the Obama Legacy on Charter Schools,’ but it might as well have been titled ‘Biden Abandons the Betsy DeVos Legacy on Charter Schools.’ Chait also attacked the Network for Public Education, which had issued two reports (see here and here) documenting the waste, fraud, and abuse in the CSP, based on the Education Department’s own data. NPE found that almost 40% of CSP funding went to charters that either never opened or closed within a few years of opening. In the life of the program, almost $1 billion had been wasted….. Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education [writes]: ‘Now let’s talk about what Jonathan Chait failed to disclose as he opposed the CSP regulation reforms, using the same misinformation that has appeared in other op-eds. His wife worked for Center City Charter Schools as a grant writer when that charter chain received two grants from the Charter School Program (CSP), the program whose loose rules he is now defending. Download the 2019 database that you can find here and match the years of dispersion to the resume of Robin Chait. But the undisclosed conflict continues to this day. Since 2018, Robin Chait has worked for West Ed which evaluated the CSP during the Betsy De Vos era. And her employer, West Ed, once got its own $1.74 million grant from CSP.” • In general, power couples are underanalyzed, except when they’re Clarence + Ginni Thomas.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Covid lowest on the list, Ukraine nowhere:



School spirit!

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Lambert here: I am but a humble tape-watcher, but if some trusting, non-realist soul tells you that “Covid is over,” you can tell them that cases are up, transmission is up, test positivity is up, hospitalization is up, rapid riser counties are up, and wastewater is up, too. And this is all from data designed to support the narrative that “Covid is over,” and gamed within an inch of its life. So, if signals like that are flashing red, consider what the real signal must be like. (Note also this is all with BA.2 only, and with what the establishment considers an “immune wall” made from vaccination and prior infection. Since semper aliquid novi Africam adferre, and we’ve let ‘er rip at the airports…. Well, I just hope we get lucky with BA.4 and BA.5. “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” –Otto von Bismarck.

• ”What the current spike in Covid-19 cases could say about the coronavirus’ future” [STAT]. “s the Omicron wave subsided in the United States earlier this year, many experts anticipated a sort of reprieve. We certainly weren’t done with Covid, but perhaps we would get a well-deserved rest. That break seems to be over.” As NC readers have known for some time. More: “‘Why is this happening?’ said Jacob Lemieux, an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, who’s been tracking variants. Is it that the novel variants are that different, or is it that immunity is that transient? ‘We don’t know, but it’s raising a lot of really important scientific questions,’ Lemieux said.” • Well, that’s reassuring!

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If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

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Case count by United States regions:

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The train is really rolling, now. Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out. Also remember, it’s 100% certain the cases numbers are significantly understated. They’ve always been gamed, but it’s worse than before. One source said they though cases might be undercounted by a factor of six. Gottlieb thinks we only pick up one in seven or eight. The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. The blue “Biden Line” shows what the case count would be if it were 79,000 * 6 = 474,000, i.e. not gamed.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

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Worth noting that cases have doubled in four weeks.

NOTE I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it.

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

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The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

From Biobot Analytics:

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Northeast unflattened, and — hat tip to readers for pointing to this — it looks like past aggregation was adjusted up. But that drop in the West looks like an adjustment, too. Do we have any readers who track non-biobot wastewater in the West?

Cases lag wastewater data.

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

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Northeast still improving. All else status quo.

The previous release:

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Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:

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The Northeast remains stubbornly and solidly red. Now California is red as well. The Upper Midwest is moving that way, too. (The Unorganized Territories in Maine are back to red, good job.)

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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This map is very dynamic! Now the orangization back to the Northeast. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,026,109 1,025,764. Looks like the CDC did discover a bunch of death certificates stuffed in a drawer. Look at the drop. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

• “Statement from President Joe Biden Marking One Million American Lives Lost to COVID-⁠19” [Whitehouse.gov]. “As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines, and treatments than ever before. It’s critical that Congress sustain these resources in the coming months.” • Not a word about non-pharmaceutical interventions. I’m afraid the nominations for Sociopath of the Day are stacking up.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Broadly down. (Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data.

The excess deaths chart appears weekly, on Friday:

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NEW: What kind of organization puts “in recent weeks” in an explanatory dropdown, and then obviously never comes back to check? Look at the qualifications in that drop-down. And the ginormous typo, helpfully highlighted, has been there for weeks. CDC, if you’re reading this, please send a signal by getting this fixed. And then throw some documents over the transom. In complete confidentiality! Obviously, nobody at CDC is checking the excess deaths chart, because otherwise the typo would be fixed. I certainly hope there are no “coding errors” in the algo.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Bezzle: AI (Artificial Intelligence) slash ML (Machine Learning) is a scam:

Nobody understands what AIs do well enough to maintain them. Turning them off and then “retraining” them is the equivalent of rebooting your computer when it’s acting funny, except riskier and more stupid. The AI box is not empty, exactly, but what exactly it’s full of we can’t be sure.

The Bezzle:

The Bezzle: “SoftBank’s Funds Post $27 Billion Loss on Plunging Tech Investments” [New York Times]. “The Japanese conglomerate said on Thursday that it had lost about $27 billion in its two Vision Funds for the year that ended in March, as many of the major tech companies it invests in have struggled under rising inflation and concerns about Covid lockdowns in China. The company lost $13.2 billion as a whole for the fiscal year, the latest sign of its severe change in fortunes just a year after it announced that it had earned more money in one quarter than any Japanese company in history. SoftBank’s eccentric founder, Masayoshi Son, has for years grabbed headlines for eye-popping purchases as he transformed his firm into a holding company for tech firms that seemed set to boom. But those big bets have collapsed, as the grab bag of big-name start-ups the company staked its future on performed poorly in recent months.” • Well, there’s still the Saudis!

Tech: “Musk says $44 bln Twitter deal on hold over fake account data” [Reuters]. “Elon Musk tweeted on Friday that his $44-billion cash deal for Twitter Inc. was ‘temporarily on hold’ while he waits for the social media company to provide data on the proportion of its fake accounts…. Musk, the world’s richest person, decided to waive due diligence when he agreed to buy Twitter on April 25, in an effort to get the San Francisco-based company to accept his “best and final offer.” This could make it harder for him to argue that Twitter somehow misled him….. ‘Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,’ Musk told his more than 92 million Twitter followers. Twitter is planning no immediate action as a result of Musk’s comment, people familiar with the matter said. The company considered the comment disparaging and a violation of the terms of their deal contract, but was encouraged by Musk subsequently tweeting he was committing to the acquisition, the sources added.”

Concentration: “Big Bottle: The Baby Formula Nightmare” [Matt Stoller, BIG]. “The problem is not, however, that there isn’t enough formula, so much as the consolidated distribution system creates a lot of shortages in specific states…. I’m going to try and lay out the situation, and explain the market structure. There are two basic mechanisms that have created a concentrated and brittle market. The first is that regulators are tough on newcomers, but soft on incumbents. And the second is that the Federal government buys more than half of the baby formula in the market, and under the guise of competitive bidding, it in fact hands out monopoly licenses for individual states. That makes it impossible to get newcomers of any scale into the market, along with the more resiliency that such competition brings. It also makes it hard to address shortages in one state with extra formula from elsewhere.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 12 Extreme Fear (previous close: 6 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 16 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 13 at 1:39 PM EDT. Mr. Bitcoin has a sad.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Butt Lifts Are Booming. Healing Is No Joke.” [New York Times]. “When Randi Wright got a Brazilian butt lift in 2020 — a complex surgery in which fat is liposuctioned from the abdomen or lower back or other fleshy parts and used to enlarge and shape the buttocks — she knew she couldn’t afford the most expensive post-op care. She underwent the same procedure a year before, traveling from Atlanta, where she lived, to Miami, where the prices were lower and the options were abundant. For Wright, getting the surgeries alleviated the insecurity she felt about her body after having two children. ‘She changed my life,’ Wright said about her surgeon, bringing a finger to the inner corner of her eye to catch a tear. ‘I could not present myself anywhere in the body that I was in.‘.” • Hmm.

Class Warfare

“The evil ghost of Hunter Harrison lives on”:

News of the Wired

“NSA Says ‘No Backdoor’ for Spies in New US Encryption Scheme” [Bloomberg]. • Well, that’s sorted.

“Ancient DNA maps ‘dawn of farming’” [Nature]. “Sometime before 12,000 years ago, nomadic hunter-gatherers in the Middle East made one of the most important transitions in human history: they began staying put and took to farming. A pair of ancient-DNA studies — including one of the largest assemblages of ancient human genomes yet published — has homed in on the identity of the hunter-gatherers who settled down. Archaeological and genetic evidence suggests that humans first took to farming in the Middle East. This transition — which also later occurred independently in other parts of the world — is known as the Neolithic revolution, and is linked to the first domestic plants and animals…. Europe’s first farming populations descend mostly from farmers in the Anatolian peninsula, in what is now Turkey. “What happened before they started to migrate and propagate farming into Anatolia and Europe?” asks Laurent Excoffier, a population geneticist at the University of Bern…. Excoffier’s team found that ancient Anatolian farmers descended from repeated mixing between distinct hunter-gather groups from Europe and the Middle East. These groups first split around the height of the last Ice Age, some 25,000 years ago. Modelling suggests that the western hunter-gatherer groups nearly died out, before rebounding as the climate warmed. Once established in Anatolia, Excoffier’s team found, early farming populations moved west into Europe in a stepping-stone-like fashion, beginning around 8,000 years ago. They mixed occasionally — but not extensively — with local hunter-gatherers. ‘It’s really the spread of people, of farming communities, that brought farming further west,’ says Excoffier.”

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From TH:

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TH writes: “This is a type of magnolia tree at the Huntington Library Gardens. I DO love purple!”

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NOTE ON PAYPAL: As some readers may know, PayPal whacked Consortium News’s account, for no justification that I can see. It’s to be hoped that Consortium News has its account completely restored, and that NC doesn’t come under the same ban hammer. In the meantime, until I/we can come up with an alternative, I must continue to rely on PayPal (and rely I do). I will be cleaning out the account daily, and PayPal does give a heads-up, so your risk is minimal. Please carry on as before, or, if you feel you must, write me and I will send you directions for sending a check. Please put “PayPal” in the subject line. Thank you for your support! It is much appreciated, and helps me with responsibilities. –lambert

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